My day job is Intake Supervisor with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).  I have volunteered with World Relief since March of 2013.  In that time, I’ve served in a variety of ways to help people become acclimated to America. Sometimes this means taking people to appointments or just spending time with families. I’ve also recently helped with Spanish translation for Cuban parolees.

Through my time spent volunteering with refugees, I’ve learned that we have more in common than not in terms of core values and needs as human beings. It’s easy to relate and connect to people who may initially seem different from you if you’re open to them. People desire sincere relationships regardless of country of origin. Having relationships with refugees is a great opportunity to learn and teach. Volunteering and helping others helps me feel like I have purpose in life. I appreciate the sincere gratitude that refugees express for what seems to me to be something very small. It makes me want to do more!

My faith has grown through my involvement with refugees. I now have an increased prayer life and a better understanding of how I can be intentional about sharing Jesus’ love with people through my daily interactions. One recent example is when I was writing a card for a family who is leaving Memphis for a great work opportunity. I often write notes quickly, but I instead took the time to grapple with and pray about what to say to them.

The most challenging thing about interacting with refugees has definitely been communication and breakdowns in communication. Patience is required, and I’m growing in that area! I’ve also learned that I often take my relationships with people for granted- that we have the same background and common cultural understanding. Once you get involved with refugees, you gain family (close) relationships with people if you’re open to it. Any apprehensions you may have (I can’t do this!) will dissipate as you engage with other human beings who just so happen to have been born in another part of the world.

And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2) My prayer to the Lord of the harvest is that more people would be proactive about sharing God’s love with people from other countries who God has appointed to be in Memphis right now. 

Jan Mitchell 

If you're interested in volunteering with World Relief, plan to attend one of our monthly Volunteer Trainings! Email Kate Foster for more information or for training dates!